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Posted on March 22, 2019 (5779) By Shlomo Katz | Series: | Level:

Volume 33, No.25
16 Adar II 5779
March 23, 2019

One of the Mitzvot in this week’s Parashah is bringing a Korban Todah / thanksgiving-offering. In particular, the Gemara enumerates four types of people who are obligated to give thanks: one who crossed a desert, one who was released from prison, one who was sick and was cured, and one who traversed the sea. [See Tehilim section below for the source.]

R’ Nosson Sternhartz z”l (1780-1845; foremost student of R’ Nachman of Breslov) writes that one who brings a Korban Todah is not merely giving thanks for his own salvation. Rather, we read in Yeshayah (63:9), “In all their pain, it is painful for Him”–meaning, say our Sages, that when we suffer, Hashem “suffers,” so-to-speak, with us.

How so? R’ Nosson explains: When a Jewish person is sad, the Shechinah is said to be “in exile.” The reason is that sadness and depression often lead a person to sin or, at least, to drown his sorrows in the pursuit of physical pleasures. Either way, the Shechinah is driven out of the picture. In contrast, the joy of salvation followed by a thanksgiving-offering invites Hashem’s Shechinah back into the world.

The Korban Todah is accompanied by forty loaves of bread! Why so much bread? R’ Nosson explains: When Adam sinned, Hashem told him (Bereishit 3:17), “Through sadness you shall eat [bread] all the days of your life.” But, through the joy of revealing Hashem again, one can eat bread without sadness.

Today, notes R’ Nosson, we have no Temple and, therefore, no Korban Todah. Instead, one who experiences a salvation must give thanks joyously, with his full heart. (Likkutei Halachot: O.C., Hilchot Hoda’ah 6:1-2)


“If he shall offer it for a Todah / thanksgiving-offering, he shall offer with the Todah – Matzah / unleavened loaves mixed with oil, Matzah wafers smeared with oil, and loaves of scalded fine flour mixed with oil. With loaves of Chametz / leavened bread shall he bring his offering, with his thanksgiving peace-offering.” (7:12-13)

R’ Ben Zion Nesher shlita (one of the senior rabbis in Tel Aviv, Israel) writes: The child says in Mah Nishtanah, “On all other nights we eat Chametz and Matzah . . .” This implies that on all other nights, except for the Seder night, we are obligated, or at least accustomed, to eat both Chametz and Matzah. However, that is not the case!

R’ Nesher explains: [One of those who is obligated to bring a Korban Todah is someone who was imprisoned and was freed.] The Korban Pesach is a form of thanksgiving-offering, expressing our gratitude for the fact that we were freed from Egypt. Therefore, the child asks: On all other nights when we have a Korban Todah to eat, we eat both Chametz and Matzah (as described in our verse above). Why, then, is the Korban Pesach–the thanksgiving-offering that we eat on the Seder night–accompanied only by Matzah, not by Chametz?

What is the answer to the child’s question? R’ Nesher explains: When a person is saved from danger, there is both a physical and a spiritual component, for surely a Jew has no desire for physical life without a spiritual aspect. If not for the fact that the body that was saved has been given another chance to serve Hashem, what would be the point of being saved?!

R’ Nesher concludes: The physical and spiritual aspects are represented by the heavier Chametz loaves and lighter Matzah loaves, respectively, that accompany the Korban Todah. Both are brought, because both aspects were saved. At the Seder, however, we wish to emphasize that we were not saved from bondage in Egypt in order to be free physically. Rather, we were saved in order to serve Hashem. Therefore, we eat only Matzah with the thanksgiving-offering on Pesach. (Haggadah Shel Pesach Shir Tziyon p.44)

The question is asked: Why do we thank Hashem for saving us from dangerous situations, yet we do not thank Him when He does not place us in dangerous situations in the first place?

R’ Yekutiel Yehuda Halberstam z”l (1905-1994; the Klausenberger Rebbe) writes in the name of several authorities that being placed in danger is a sign that one is being judged for his sins. Thus, one thanks Hashem for saving him from danger despite his sins. (Shefa Chaim No. 222)



Siddur Avodat Yisrael cites a custom to recite Psalm 107 on the Shabbat on which Parashat Tzav is read. The Gemara (Berachot 54b) notes that this Psalm teaches us which four groups of people are obligated to bring a Korban Todah / thanksgiving-offering, a Mitzvah found in this week’s Parashah. [See above.]

“‘Give thanks to Hashem, for He is good; His kindness is eternal!’ So let those redeemed by Hashem say, those He redeemed from trouble. . .”

[One who crossed a desert:] “Some lost their way in the wilderness, in the wasteland; they found no settled place. . . In their trouble they cried to Hashem, and He rescued them from their trouble. . . Let them praise Hashem for His kindness, His wondrous deeds for mankind. . .”

[One who was released from prison:] “Some lived in deepest darkness, bound in cruel irons, because they defied the word of Kel, spurned the counsel of the Most High. He humbled their hearts through suffering; they stumbled with no one to help. In their trouble they cried to Hashem, and He rescued them from their trouble. He brought them out of deepest darkness, broke their bonds asunder. Let them praise Hashem for His kindness, His wondrous deeds for mankind. . .”

[One who was sick and was cured:] “There were fools who suffered for their sinful way, and for their iniquities. . . In their adversity they cried to Hashem, and He rescued them from their troubles. He gave an order and healed them; He delivered them from the pits. Let them praise Hashem for His kindness, His wondrous deeds for mankind. Let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices, and tell His deeds in joyful song.”

[One who traversed the sea:] “Others go down to the sea in ships, ply their trade in the mighty waters. They have seen the works of Hashem and His wonders in the deep. By His word He raised a storm wind that made the waves surge. . . Mounting up to the heaven, plunging down to the depths, disgorging in their misery, they reeled and staggered like a drunken man, all their skill to no avail. In their trouble they cried to Hashem, and He saved them from their troubles. . . Let them praise Hashem for His kindness, His wondrous deeds for mankind.”


Thirty Days Before Pesach

“In every generation, one is obligated to see himself as if he had personally gone out of Egypt.” (Pesach Haggadah)

What does this mean in practice? R’ Shlomo Wolbe z”l (1914-2005) explains:

In Egypt, Bnei Yisrael were enslaved. They were lowly slaves to a corrupt nation. Bnei Yisrael’s masters controlled both their bodies and their minds, subjecting them to back-breaking labor and to negative spiritual influences. Thus, Midrash Rabbah records that Bnei Yisrael who left Egypt had been idolaters. Indeed, four-fifths of Bnei Yisrael did not even merit to leave Egypt; instead, they died during the plague of Darkness. And, even those who did leave Egypt were, in a sense, stuck in Egypt until Hashem “extracted” them, as we read (Devarim 4:34), “Or has any god ever miraculously come to take for himself a nation from inside a nation.”

And yet, the moment they left Egypt, they turned into new people. We read (Shmot 14:8), “Bnei Yisrael were going out with an upraised arm.” Rashi z”l explains: “With elevated and public Gevurah / strength.” This Gevurah was manifested, writes R’ Wolbe, by rising above their previous lowly state, breaking free of the dominion of evil and impurity, and entering the dominion of holiness.

We say in Ma’ariv that Hashem “removed His people Yisrael from their midst to eternal freedom.” What is this “eternal freedom”? It is more than freedom from physical slavery; it is freedom from the dominion of evil and impurity. To see ourselves as having gone out of Egypt means to free ourselves from whatever evil or impurity holds dominion over us, R’ Wolbe writes.

How is this accomplished? R’ Wolbe explains: Pirkei Avot (ch.5) describes the Ten Plagues as “Ten Nissim that were performed for our ancestors.” “Nes” is often translated “miracle,” but it also means “banner.” At each of the plagues, Hashem elevated our ancestors like a banner held high, and He drew them close to Him. As idolaters, they should have experienced the same fate as the Egyptians, but Hashem’s Hashgachah Peratit / Divine Providence directed to the individual protected them miraculously.

Every time Hashem demonstrates His Hashgachah Peratit over an individual, He is elevating that person, just as He elevated our ancestors when His Hashgachah Peratit saved them miraculously from the Ten Plagues. To see ourselves as if we had personally gone out of Egypt means recognizing the Hashgachah Peratit in our lives and being inspired by it to break the hold that evil and impurity have over each of us to a greater or lesser degree. (Da’at Shlomo: Ma’amarei Geulah p.10)